Gen Z has “the potential to be perhaps the most influential generation we’ve ever seen on consumers’ eating and drinking behaviors,” according to David Portalatin, food industry adviser for NPD Group, Food Business News reported.

What form will this influence take? The research suggests it will be different from the Millennials that came before them.

First, Gen Zers eat more snacks than any other generation — 53 times more per capita, to be exact.

They also develop different relationships with brands. Like Millennials, they want products that are fresh, authentic, and clean-label. They also demand more organic and non-GMO foods. The difference is that while Millennials are attracted to small, local brands, Gen Z cares less about a brand’s size and more about its story and its values.

These conclusions are supported by other research. An recent IGD study found that Gen Zers are more likely than Millennials to believe brands provide higher quality than private label. They’re also more likely to buy from big brands to whom they’ve developed an emotional attachment.

Other studies have shown that Gen Z is more adventurous, more diverse, and more interested in customized products than Millennials.

In many ways, the food industry is still figuring out how to appeal to Millennials, who demand more premium and convenience foods than any generation before. But Gen Z is coming, and by 2020 they will be the largest generation, with the spending power to match. Food producers, processors, and manufacturers need to start preparing now to provide this generation with products that reflect both their foodie culture and their personal values.

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